06 Apr Is Stress Affecting Your Teeth?
April is Stress Awareness Month and has been running for nearly thirty years with the aim of increasing public awareness about both the causes and cures of stress. According to the Mental Health Foundation 74% of UK adults have felt high levels of stress at some point over the last year. Stress is a significant factor in mental health problems including anxiety and depression but has also been linked to physical health problems like heart disease, problems with our immune system, insomnia and digestive problems. But did you know bruxism the habit of tooth grinding is also linked to stress.
What are the causes of Bruxism?
Stress, tension and anxiety experienced during the daytime can carry over into our sleep and lead to tooth grinding or clenching habits. Often occurring at night so you may be unaware of it happening but it can be the cause of disturbed sleep, waking unrefreshed, sore muscles, headaches and clicking jaw joints.
Incorrect tooth alignment can also be a cause as tension in the muscles attached to the jaw result in muscle and jaw pain leading to clenching or grinding habits in an attempt to make a more comfortable tooth and jaw position. This, in turn, leads to more tension and so in turn leads to more clenching and more pain.
Stimulants such as caffeine found in tea and coffee, as well as regular use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco have all been found to increase the likelihood of teeth grinding.
Signs of Bruxism include:
- Cracked or chipped teeth
- Broken crowns or fillings
- Teeth sensitivity
- Clicking jaw joints
- Headaches, neck aches and shoulder pains
- Limited opening of the jaw
The good news is there are a number of lifestyle changes as well as some effective dental treatments to tackle the issues cause by bruxism.
- Regular check-ups allow your dentist to detect and monitor early signs of tooth wear which can be recorded as a BEWE score.
- Being aware of stress and identifying the triggers that cause it allows you to reduce the stress and anxiety that lead to tooth grinding.
- Knowing the importance of reducing alcohol and caffeine as these can be initiators in increasing frequency and intensity of teeth grinding has proved helpful for some people.
- Mindfulness and relaxation therapies such as meditation, psychotherapy and yoga have all been shown to help people tackle their bruxism.
- As well as following these tips to identify and prevent teeth grinding from worsening we can provide the following dental treatments;
- Nightguards, are a type of transparent device that fits comfortably over your teeth and are worn at night. Nightguards can be made from different materials with different levels of customisation but all types prevent the damage incurred as a result of teeth grinding. As well as helping to reduce facial pain, headaches and tooth sensitivity.
- Muscle relaxants and Botox injections can also be used in severe cases to reduce the activity of the muscles involved in bruxism.
- Occlusal equilibration techniques can also be used as the selective removal of occlusal interferences is known to reduce clenching and grinding habits
- Orthodontics is another technique used in severe cases to improve tooth alignment and so help to relive bruxism